Ninja card

With £5,900 a month to spend, Linklaters NQs can now afford 12 ninja hero cards this year. 

Linklaters has increased the salary for its newly-qualified lawyers to £107,500, making them the highest paid NQs in the Magic Circle.

The salary rise will be effective from 1 November, with a discretionary bonus on top. The firm had only recently announced in July that it was raising pay for its NQs from £92,500 to £100,000, which came into effect at the start of this month. 

It remains to be seen whether other Magic Circle firms now follow suit. Slaughter and May, Clifford Chance and Freshfields pay their NQs a base salary of £100,000. While Allen & Overy also pays its NQs £100k - but only when a bonus is included. 

As the City pay war continues, tiers have emerged. Also offering a six figure salary, Hogan Lovells pays its NQs a base salary of £100k (plus a bonus). Firms including Macfarlanes and Ashurst pay a base salary of £90,000, with the potential to reach in excess of £100k when a discretionary bonus is included.

In the salary rung below, firms including CMS and Eversheds Sutherland pay their London NQs a base salary of £82,000. 

Below that, firms such as Trowers & Hamlins pay their London NQs £72,500, while their regional NQs pocket considerably less with pay of £47k in Manchester, Exeter and Birmingham.

In a different stratosphere, the £140k+ club is a US-only affair, whose members include Debevoise & Plimpton, Latham & Watkins, Milbank, Akin Gump, Simpson Thacher, and Kirkland & Ellis. Not everyone has joined, and it remains to be seen how quickly any of them will catch up to Vinson & Elkins, which boosted NQ salaries from £147,500 to £153,000 in June. 

RollOnFriday also understands that US firm Goodwin has raised the salaries of its trainees in London, this month. New starters will get £52k, up from £46k, while second year trainees will get £57k, up from £50k. 

Whether you're delighted or dismayed with your pay, get in touch to spill the beans on your salary.

Tip Off ROF


anon 01 October 21 09:23

It’s simply jam today because the pay rises don’t follow through the NQ bands so you’ll get a situation where as these NQs progress to 1-4 PQE they are not given the increases they need to keep / justify them doing often soul destroying and life sapping work, and so they will leave …. to US firms.   


Egg Breath 01 October 21 09:47

As an  a senior associate at RPC I’m a little shocked that NQs are earning more than me according to this. I’m going to speak to my line manager immediately to work out why some NQ that knows nothing and can’t even draft a basic power of attorney is earning 20k more than me when we are in the same team at the same firm.

Anonymous 01 October 21 10:29

But why do you not just leave and go to a good firm that would pay you a decent salary as a matter of course?

Or has that plan proved harder than anticipated?

Anon 01 October 21 10:39

@ Eggy 

RPC aren’t mentioned in this but you are probably right anyway and I assume that you are based in the regions doing insurance work.  Well, problem is that the hourly rates are pitiful and haven’t increased for years let alone with inflation and so there is a cap on what you can bill and be paid.  If you can only bill £230,000 a year on average then divide that by 3.5/4 and you get around 50-55,000 as an SA, perhaps a bit more if it’s better to pay you a few thousand over than risk losing you and incurring a lot more in recruitment fees.   Insurer rates in London are higher by about 25% plus other more profitable work is done there so that’s why salaries are higher.  

Good luck challenging the entire insurance regional firm business model though with your partner.  I’m sure that the conversation will go well, they will put up everyone’s pay (but take a hit on drawings) and appreciate you bringing it to their attention.  

Anonymous 01 October 21 13:06

@ eggy

£87k for a senior associate in Bristol is what you can expect to max out at. Be grateful.

Or mark yourself out as a ***** to your boss...

Long Game 01 October 21 13:48

Agree with the Jam today comment.

US rates may be 40% higher at NQ but it's more like 100% by the time you get to 4PQE and factor in Cravath scale bonuses or better.

Anon 01 October 21 14:41

87k as a SA in prof indemnity in regions - no chance!

more like 65/70k if you’re lucky.  The insurance rates haven’t moved in years.   

Anon 01 October 21 15:26

I am the GC in the US, and qualified in the UK and the US. I have over 10 years PQE and am based in Chicago. My salary is GBP 180k. Not sure what the hell is going on in London.  

Cup of tea anyone? 01 October 21 17:49

That is decent whack, but if I was still in the MC doing MC hours, I would deffo try and move to a U.S. firm. Happily, I'm in Bristol as a SA. For reference, I work 9-6/7 most days (earlier finish on a Friday) and I'm on 85k with 6 PQE. I'm pretty happy with my deal, but I'm not sure the MC transactional departments are a good bet anymore (if they ever were). 

Anonymous 01 October 21 20:54

Let me tell you - the pay at Hogan Lovells levels-off pretty quickly post-qualification. 

Anon 01 October 21 20:59

Just get a job in R&C in a good firm and earn £125-150k, no hours targets, secure job, varied work, get to work with senior management on firm issues and get out on time most nights.   Sure, no partnership available but you probably won’t get that as an associate anyway and you’ll keep your hair and sanity in the meantime plus if you want you can press on to a head of dept / GC and earn 250-750k.  

Anon 01 October 21 21:15

Agree with comments above about simply front loading pay.  Reality is that if an NQ is paid 107k, they will get a smaller increase at 1, 2 and 3 years etc because no way can Links afford to raise the pay of hundreds of associates through the bands and still keep PEP at the level the partners expect.  So you’re getting more as an NQ, when you haven’t earned it, but are getting less of an increase as a junior to mid level associate when you’ve experienced severe beastings and do deserve a decent rise compared to those below you.   But you won’t get it and will be disillusioned as you see the NQs you’ve been treating at glorified trainees earn not much less than you.  Then you see how you could earn an extra 60k plus bonus at K&E or similar firms for the same work and comparable hours and….. 

MC def. 04 October 21 01:35

lol at those that think that US firms have "similar hours" to the transactional teams at Links etc

to anticipate a particular rebuttal: yes working throughout your entire weekend and holidays may only be an extra "10%" or "20%" of working time in exchange for a 40% premium, but you feel it a lot more than that... so you will need a 40+% premium over MC to justify those hours

when you're in the realm of diminishing returns "similar" can hide a lot of discrepancies e.g. will i be expected to wake up early on a Saturday to catch up on work or can I actually take my day off... will I be expected to do busywork on a Friday night because I have no one to delegate it to or will I have an adequately staffed team... will I be wasting time I can't bill on trying to figure out XYZ because the practice is broader and I'm constantly being exposed to stuff I have no idea about... you get the idea

and it should be telling that attrition at K&E/Milbank etc is 2 years average for associates... so enjoy your extra £50k (max) for two years! what a life changing amount

any SA will know that the thing to look out for are partnership prospects (w/ the extra financial rewards they bring) if they're in it for the long run. at that point it comes down to the market and the individual and US vs UK is an irrelevant debate... you'll stick out a lower MC salary if it means higher partnership prospects... you'll enjoy the extra grind in a US firm it if means the same.. yeah...

i basically refuse to believe that anyone actually saying 'hurr durr go to a US firm' is even a real associate at this point... just so divorced from the real life considerations associates have

Mr Donelan 04 October 21 23:23

Agree with the poster above. In my experience, those who go to US firms are either genuinely unwell (happily single or neglectful of SOs, desperate to prove something to the world, mean and bitter people, etc.) or are doing it as a short-term cash grab before they quit the profession, move abroad, or move back into a cushier role that doesn't involve very long hours. I've even heard plenty of people say that short-term financial goals like putting down a deposit or saving the capital to start a business was what motivated them to move, which struck me as unnecessarily impatient at the time, but hey, why not take the money if it's there, right?

Attrition is horrendous at US firms (in part) because people have planned out their exit options before they've even joined and are not in it for life. And there's nothing wrong with that. Young investment bankers go into their careers expecting to leave and will be interviewing at other companies within months of joining. Lawyers shouldn't be looked at funny for basically doing the same albeit 2-3 years further into their careers.

The same obviously applies to MC firms but to a lesser degree, since the beasting they give you is only just about compensated for by the salaries they offer (and even then the benefit is equally in the CV you'll be building and the relationships you'll have as it is in the six-figure salary). 

By the way, both US firms and MC firms recruit associates from mid-tier and non-UK firms nowadays. This idea that they're so elite and amazing and impossible to get into has been torn apart with Covid. The market is basically open for everyone to go where they want. And if these firms are having to recruit from Simmons, Eversheds, NRF, etc., then chances are that there aren't that many elite people who are willing to sign up to what they are selling. The high salary only compensates for the loss of everything else for so long. 


Anon 05 October 21 09:50

MC def:

Partnership prospects at somewhere like Slaughters are negligible for any associate.   It’s also very very hard at other MC firms.  You have around 200 associates in the year groups eligible for partnership , of whom 2 or 3 might make it.  The rest are normally binned or leave because there is no point staying.  So, no, sticking it out for less pay and a poor worK life balance hoping you will make partner one day is not a credible plan in reality. Many associates kid themselves it is to justify their working existence and to avoid having to admit defeat.  

I have in the past worked many weekends and late nights on deals at a MC firm.  The idea that this doesn’t happen and somehow MC life is easier and softer is just not accurate.  Much of the work is barely what could be called “lawyering”.  Being exhausted and fed up hits you at a material level at a certain threshold whether you have done two out of three weekends or three out of three and whether you have worked 16 hour days for a week or 14 hour day.

It’s not like having worked nights in a row and at weekends you say “oh well at least I don’t have to work next weekend so it does not matter I’m paid £60k less”.   If you’re paid 60k more plus a better bonus you can at least have a plan to save that and buy a house and then quit.  On MC salaries particularly the poorer bonuses (max of about 20-35k in most cases) this is not as viable an option.  

I’d be interested in the evidence as to attrition at K&E vs the likes of FF, SM etc.   

There is plenty of evidence that UK firms are worried about the competition for their people.   Hence the point of the subject matter of this article and the significant inflation of NQ salaries from two years ago.  



nonny 07 October 21 15:26

Seeing that after tax take home figure makes me rejoice that I'm offshore paying no income tax. 

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